Actuaries and Soothsayers
When many motorcoaches still on the street began their lives, many members of the industry thought that wheelchair-accessible coaches would not become commonplace in their lifetimes. But that was before motorcoach suspension systems became a selling point to potential AMTRAK-riding laptop users whose cursors jump around the screen from the roll, pitch and yaw of old diesels and prehistoric roadbeds. It was before risk management became a mundane operating function, and expert witnesses began to outnumber dispatchers. And it was before Hurricane Katrina taught us that buses and coaches would occasionally have to serve as short-term homes.
Lest the reader consider a few of the offerings above too futuristic, remember that we are not talking about buying today’s buses tomorrow. You can do this simply by visiting any number of used bus and coach dealerships, or surfing through their inventories on-line. We are talking about buying tomorrow’s buses today. We are discussing the importance of bus and coach purchasing as an investment decision. And we are talking about selecting and specifying vehicles that will grow old before they grow obsolete.
We are talking about buyers not simply willing to inherit their destinies. We are talking about buyers willing to create and define them. For those unaware of it, Iraq reached its peak of oil production in the 1970’s. The more of it we use, the deeper we will have to drill to get it, the further we will have to transport it, and the more it will cost to produce and refine it. But we will likely strike oil on a planet in another solar system long before we transform our dysfunctional urban form into something that can be served effectively by rail. For those readers who may have missed Hurricane Katrina or September 11th, buses and coaches are not just our future. We are suffering from their sparcity right now. Buses and motorcoaches will not be driving through the future. They are the future.
More than two years ago, when gasoline was far below $2.00 a gallon, I told many of my friends that gasoline would absolutely cost $3.00 a gallon by the Summer of 2005. I have the outgoing e-mails to prove it. Carpooling has its limits in a nation with 52,800 non-family abductions a year, and where carpool staging areas are a relic of the Hippydom Sixties.
Those of us unaware that we are in deep trouble are in an ice bath – beyond large pieces of it we will begin to see more often floating by. Buses are a small but important part of the way out. Buying and configuring them intelligently is an important part of the way in.
Previous NBT articles, particularly Part 1 of this series, have explored this reality in considerable detail. Part of this reality relates to the highly competitive nature of de-regulated motorcoach service in an age of minimal law enforcement. Part of it reflects surges in our litigation environment, and the shrinkage of our healthcare safety net. Part of it reflects the decline in drivers’ wages, the thinning out of management, and the evaporation of live staff in general. Part of it lies in the saga of fossil fuel energy, suburban sprawl and the switch, in 2001, of the currency standard for purchasing petroleum products from the U.S. dollar to the Euro. Much of it also reflects the only-the-huge-survive nature of modern day, mega-corporate, private enterprise. Like it or not, our future has little opportunity for small winners. It has opportunity only for big ones. Those who wish to belong to this future had better make wise choices.